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Lawmakers propose fees for state health exchange

By Cathy Bussewitz / Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 03:45 p.m. HST, Mar 10, 2014


State lawmakers are proposing charging a fee to insurers that are not participating in the state's insurance exchange under President Barack Obama's federal health care overhaul.

The fee would help prop up the financially troubled Hawaii Health Connector. The exchange has enough money to cover its bills for this year — but not beyond that, without some help.

"This is not something we want to do," said Rep. Angus McKelvey, chairman of the House Consumer Protection and Commerce Committee. "It's federally mandated that we have to have our exchanges be sustainable."

The unspecified fee would be charged by the state insurance commissioner until mid-2018, based on the number of people the carrier insures.

The exchange was established with $205 million in federal grants and has asked the federal government to spend the money more slowly than originally planned. As scheduled, it is supposed to spend those funds by the end of the year. As of Dec. 31, the exchange planned to spend nearly $139 million in federal grants in 2014.

The new insurance fee is part of a flurry of House proposals that were rolled into one overarching bill (HB 2529) now being considered by the Senate.

The bill also would create a legislative oversight committee to review the exchange's financial and operational plans.

"We want oversight ... so we know exactly every penny they want and what they want to spend it on," said McKelvey, a Democrat.

A proposal to have the state take over the exchange previously was part of the main House bill, but was taken out of consideration for several reasons. First, if the state had taken over the exchange, the assisters who help people sign up for coverage would have become state employees, sending state costs skyrocketing, McKelvey said.

The state also would have assumed the exchange's liabilities, exposing the state to even further financial risk. In addition, the Legislature cannot legally disband a private nonprofit, he said.

Another proposal (HB 2581) calls for seeking waivers from some requirements of the Affordable Care Act to accomplish goals like downsizing the Connector. A task force would come up with ways to improve the operation.

"It provides a lot of flexibility to go beyond or to address health coverage in ways that were not so prescriptive under the Affordable Care Act," said Beth Giesting, who heads the Office of Healthcare Transformation for Gov. Neil Abercrombie.

A Senate proposal (SB 2470) would reduce the number of members of the Connector's board of directors. The board needs more representatives from the private sector, because as it stands, the members primarily are from insurance providers and the state, McKelvey said.

Eventually, the bills from both chambers will be hashed out in conference committee, McKelvey said.







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Maneki_Neko wrote:
How about starting by identifying those responsible for this massive goat rope and holding them accountable for their failure? That would be a good start and add credibility to all the politicians talk.
on March 10,2014 | 06:23PM
pcman wrote:
With all the money provided by the feds, why does the state have to spend any money or do any oversight. Leave it for the feds to do. With only two major health programs (KP and HMSA) in Hawaii, people can do the shopping on their own common sense. This was a rip-off by the feds to spend Obamacare funds like a drunken sailor.
on March 10,2014 | 06:29PM
soundofreason wrote:
DON'T even think about it. We're not to pay for this FAILURE JUST so it can KEEP failing.
on March 10,2014 | 06:59PM
Anonymous wrote:
"First, if the state had taken over the exchange, the assisters who help people sign up for coverage would have become state employees, sending state costs skyrocketing, McKelvey said." There are so many other areas of government that should be privatized as well. Now that McKelvey understands this, let's see if he does the right thing for the taxpayers.
on March 10,2014 | 07:38PM
st1d wrote:
way to spread the pain to everyone already insured. obamadontcare is far from being the money saver for people who already had or were seeking health coverage.

skyrocketing fees, taxes and policy payments will move more people into poverty than any other program, ever.

at a time when the election year hoax of pay inequity fuels anti-business minimum wage hikes, obamascam is relentlessly siphoning off the pitiful savings of the middle class turning them into newly minted paupers while moving billions into his preferred health provider partners.


on March 11,2014 | 12:01AM
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